Estate Planning for Digital Assets

Cybersecurity, Financial Planning, Yeske Buie MillennialPosted on August 13th, 2015No Comments

Written By: Jennifer Hicks, CFP®

It is no secret that we are rapidly becoming an ever more paperless society. This doesn’t mean that we are maintaining less “stuff”, however. In fact, I’d be inclined to believe the opposite. With mobile technology a societal norm, we are replacing all our physical information and documents with digital versions. Instead of letters, we have emails. Instead of photo albums, we have Facebook. However, whether your “stuff” is in your desk or in the cloud it is just as important to make sure that there are appropriate instructions for what to do with everything once you are gone.

With this in mind, we’d like to offer some questions for you to consider in order to make sure that your digital assets are as well planned for as your physical assets.

  1. What online accounts and digital assets do you have?
    • Make a list of your digital information and where it can be found. This may include any of the following:
      • Word/Excel documents
      • Quicken/Quickbooks
      • Tax prep programs
      • Social Media
      • Online bank accounts
      • Online shopping accounts
      • Personal websites or blogs
      • Email accounts
  2.  Who do you want to make responsible for your digital assets after you pass?
    • Estate planning is all about people planning, and this is no different. Identify 1-2 people in your life who you trust to have access to your information and to carry out your wishes in regard to your digital assets and social media accounts. Be sure to talk to whomever you select so that they are aware of their responsibility.
  3. How will your responsible “successors” gain access to the digital information?
    • Make and maintain a list of your accounts, your usernames and passwords, pin numbers, and domain names. You need to remember to keep this list updated as passwords are updated and new accounts are added. The safest way to keep this information would be written down and stored in a safety deposit box alongside your other important estate documents. However there are alternative programs that can securely keep this information safe as well. We don’t have a recommendation for any particular service, however, this article provides a helpful comparison of the options available.
  4. What do you want to happen with your accounts and information?
    • Provide specific instructions for how your online accounts should be treated. Social Media accounts are able to be used as a means of announcement if you so wish. Facebook can even create a “memorial” of sorts, allowing people to share remembrances on your wall. You can read more here about how Facebook has changed the way we grieve.
    • Make a list of important documents/information on your computer to “Do Not Delete” and provide instructions for what should be done with them.
    • It s possible for you to keep a blog or website up and running after your passing. However, you should have a plan in place for your successor and make sure they are aware of your desire for the blog/website continuing.
    • Closing any unnecessary accounts will also provide protection against identity theft once you have passed.

The process of documenting and providing instructions for your digital assets and social media may seem daunting. However, it is important to acknowledge that this is a living document and changes can be made as you wish throughout your lifetime. Any changes you’d like to make can be done with the stroke of a pen (and won’t incur any additional attorney fees)!

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson